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One of the things that I really enjoyed about my experience at TEDxMidwest was the networking idea of “Ask me about…” Through the online registration process, attendees were instructed to put three discussion topics on their name badges that would help spark conversations. I always look forward to the connections made at meetings and conferences, for they are one of the biggest benefits one can obtain. By doing so, with an educational conference like TEDxMidwest, “Ask be about…” helps make it easy to start a conversation with other attendees.
For my personal “Ask me about…” section, I listed three things: create positive change, multi-generational audiences, and reality vs. perception. Not only are these some of my favorite professional topics of conversation, it was very interesting to hear what ideas others had to contribute. I received multiple business cards and connections with people I may not have approached or been approached by otherwise, if not for my badge.
When producing an event or meeting, one must strive to have positive networking and engaging conversations in order to receive important feedback, successful results, and a knowledgeable experience. When people have topics of conversations selected prior to a conversation, it breaks down the barrier between strangers and becomes a discussion between two intriguing professionals, exchanging worthy ideas.
I presented the ideas to some of my strong clients and their communications department immediately responded. They loved the idea of developing an easy-going environment. Creating a professional social environment where attendees and clients can make important and useful connections based on three simple topics may just be next big step in making meetings go from ordinary to extraordinary. What would your “Ask me about…” be?
As a planner you spend time thinking about “If we do this, then we can expect this to happen.” In terms of attendee safety and security, you need to stop and ask, “What if…the fire alarm in the ballroom goes off, then what do we do?”
In terms of the Boston Marathon, the planners had asked, “What if a bombing or shooting took place? What do we do?” It appeared that they had considered these scenarios as the first responders took action while the whole world watched. They demonstrated that while we cannot prevent every contingency, we should be prepared when things do happen. We therefore can never stop asking ourselves “What if…”
Just this Monday, we were reminded of the importance of safety. The bombings that hit the Boston Marathon that afternoon made the city come together, as well as the rest of the country. Reading through many articles about the bombings, I came across one that mentioned the effects that it may have on the event industry. As the article stated, “For the event industry, the biggest question is the security at running events as well as large public gatherings.”
The BizBash article goes on to quote Jon Hughes from Track Shack Events. He ran in the Boston Marathon and was on his way back to the hotel when he could see the smoke. As an event producer, Jon was able to take a perspective on what future events may look like following this incidence.
It is safe to say that future races will be impacted, as they try to increase the security measures for the bystanders while maintaining the level of security they have for those participating. How much security is enough to ensure the safety of the civilians and those actually running? That is tough to say and I am sure that it will depend on the location and number of participants expected at each race. Still, races around the nation are pressing onward with higher precautions in regards to safety. It is safe to say that it is one of the top priorities of race personnel.
It is essential that any large event, outside or inside, has followed all possible security procedures. Event planners should take this event as a warning to assess the situation prior to the start of event to ensure that all of the precautions have been taken to the best of ability. Any potential errors or mishaps should be accounted for and a backup plan should be created in case something does happen that is not in the written plans. Also, the selection of a safe location and venue is imperative to the overall safety of an event. Hosting a large gathering in a secure place, that feels welcoming and comforting, will make things much easier for the security that is running the event. Security officers should be available at all times during the event, walking around, and showing their presence to the attendees to comfort them and their safety. But, be careful, too much demonstration of security personnel may frighten some attendees into thinking something has occurred. And finally, know the emergency services in the area and have the contact information on hand just in case.
Esprit Productions will continue to keep Boston in our thoughts and prayers.
Last month, there was great fanfare about the discovery of the Higgs boson particle which shows why matter has mass. It is also referred to as the “God particle”. This particle is so elusive that only one particle out of one trillion will collide with another in the “atom smasher.” Finding this particle took more than two decades and could be a solid contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.
This picture of what they discovered shows yellow particles on a blue background. More than twenty-five years ago designers of graphics and slides professed that yellow on blue was very effective when creating slides for presentations. This combination makes it easy for the human eye to read and absorb information. For more information about this amazing finding take a look. For most of us, it will hurt our head!
With all of the communication tools that we have today, it appears that we can certainly improve on half of what good communications is about…listening. People want to be heard in all aspects of their lives. Citizens want the government to hear their voice. Employees want their bosses to hear their points of view. Wives want their husbands to hear their requests.
Recently, the White House’s “We the People” has taken off, by doubling over a six-month span. This is a platform that allows citizens to view current petitions, add a signature to emphasize the importance of these issues, and if there are enough, the government will view this petition as a concern of the people. With the increased usage of technology and primarily the Internet, citizens are able to connect to the government and others that may feel strongly about a particular issue and they are able to “use the Internet as a platform for collective action.” As President Obama says, “That’s what the new We the People feature on WhiteHouse.gov is all about – giving Americans a direct line to the White House on the issues and concerns that matter most to them.” The biggest leap forward that this feature has provided, is the acknowledgement of the 32 varying petitions related to gun violence to which President Obama responded. This only gives Americans the confidence that their voices are being heard.
Being heard in the workplace is essential for employees in order for them to feel satisfied with their jobs and confident in their co-worker support. A unique technology, FacilitatePro, features tools that assist in brainstorming, capturing ideas, action planning, surveying, documenting and categorizing. This type of enhancement “changes group dynamics by allowing people to contribute anonymously and gives people time to think individually while sharing ideas with others.” In groups, some people tend to shy away from expressing their opinions and conforming with the group majority, while this technology will provide an outlet for those employees and allow others to brainstorm on their own and contribute as the thoughts are developed. Employees will be relieved and encouraged when they know that their voice is heard amongst the group and by their supervisor.
And finally, being heard within one’s personal life is the key to strong communication. It is imperative that couples (married, straight and gay) listen to one another and speak about their concerns or setbacks. Personal communication is key in this situation, not information communication. There is a huge difference. Communication between couples or partners revolves around the development of a renewed relationship. After all, “Creating love in your relationship paves the way for effective communication.” This relationship is about the “depth of connection between the communicators.” Couples, by relating again on a deeper level, can feel as though they are being heard and listened to.
Altogether, the weight of feeling heard holds strong importance to many individuals in today’s society. There is a plethora of ways to communicate with one another to express our opinion, but determining the right mode of communication is what is most important. Using the We the People platform will help citizens shorten the gap between them and the government. FacilitatePro will help employees feel comfortable to express their brainstorming ideas on a timely basis. And, improving personal connections will help couples. After all, people want to be heard.
Over the years, there has been much talk about the benefits and costs of having webinars versus face-to-face meetings. As we have explored in our newsletters and blogs, there is a definite place for each in one’s organization. This week’s decision from Yahoo’s CEO to make all full time employees work from the office has sparked much discussion about people working virtually from home versus going into an office almost every day.
To start, let’s take a look at a recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Rachel Emma Silverman called Step Into the Office-Less Company.
The article begins by stating, “Work gets done wherever employees choose, and virtual meetings are conducted on Skype of over Internet chat.” If there are very important questions that need to be answered between these organized meetings, phone calls are essential.” In fact, Esprit operates mainly through conference calls, which are enhanced through WebEx, Microsoft Live or similar software. Many of our clients utilize internal blogs to communicate more directly with the employees that are located separately. If necessary, they are willing to fly someplace to coordinate details and complete a task.
Utilizing an “office-less” company creates a remote workforce, allowing for more talent and a greater selection because they are not limited by geography. With the technology available today, these employees can communicate regularly to stay on task. Companies also save money on real estate costs. At the same time, this expense can be offset and reallocated into travel costs. Within Esprit, many members of the tech team are located in California. Daily communication is used to stay in touch with the projects and the progress being made.
Another benefit to working within a company that is not restrained to office space, is the nonhierarchical management structures that can develop. This allows teams and workers the authority to make their own decisions and complete needed tasks on their own basis, with limited supervision. This freedom from restraints can foster creativity and productivity within these groups, as they are working according to their schedules. Individuals are granted their own hours with contact from team leaders as needed.
However, there are some negative aspects that correlate with an “office-less” company, which are brought up this week by Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer who is no longer permitting Yahoos to work from home. This Yahoo memo is directed towards those individuals who are full-time home employees. She states, “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important. So we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.” First, there is a lack of face-to-face interaction and personal contact with other employees when some individuals are working from home offices. Since most of their work will be done through virtual spaces, it may be difficult to develop a bond with one another. It is important to create a cohesive culture with the employees, to ensure that everyone is striving for a common goal. New employees will not grow as much without the personal connections that could be established through a standard office space. It is a fine line for many people to separate home life from work life and it could be hurtful to one area of one’s life if they interfere too frequently. This alteration in company structure for Yahoo will most likely create some turmoil amongst some employees, as some may have to look at relocation or resigning due to the requirement of working in a designated office space.
Ultimately, “being virtual makes everything more convenient.” But, is that the best structure for your company today to achieve its goals? Face-to-face interaction is best for feedback, persuading, encouragement, and recognition.
It goes back to the discussion of having face-to-face meetings versus conference calls. There is a time and place for both. Today’s leaders need to know where and when to be digital and where and when to be face-to-face!
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! This day is always a great reminder to tell those around you how much they mean to you. Yesterday, I came across this article, illustrating a one-of-a-kind experience.
Do you like to have reservations on Valentine’s Day? Would you like to receive free dessert after your meal? And, would you like to have a complimentary photograph taken to remember the evening? Well, it so happens that all of these are available in any White Castle in the Chicagoland area. Yes, White Castle. Today, White Castle customers will experience luxury, as they dine with tablecloths, flowers, and decorations. There is an experience for everyone.
White Castle is infamous for it’s sliders: the bite-size burgers that are absolutely delicious. Interestingly, restaurants and hotel catering menus all over are looking to implement these finger-foods on upscale menus. The bite-size delectable could be considered gourmet steak, or even salmon. These locations strive to bring the feeling of comfort and home that comes along with these foods. Next time you are visiting a five-star hotel or restaurant, check out the menu and see if you can spot them! Or, next time you are hosting an event, of any kind, whip up a batch of sliders and they are sure to be a huge hit.
With checking-in baggage costs and the time waiting for your luggage at baggage claim on the rise, more business people are trying to use carry-on luggage. Therefore, the need to learn how to pack is important.
There are many techniques that people use to squeeze several days of wardrobe into a small bag. After doing some research on the best way to pack a bag efficiently, I found this impressing video: Pack for Weeks in a Carry-on.
This is a simple way to pack for an extended amount of time with several pieces of clothing. Next time you have to pack, keep this method in mind!
After studying in Madrid, Spain for the past four months, needless to say it was wonderful to come home. Having the amazing opportunity to live in Spain and travel to several other European countries opened my eyes to new things and gave me a greater understanding of different cultures and traditions. Two obvious dissimilarities compared to the United States are the preparation of food and the act of eating, which vary greatly in Europe, particularly in Spain.
To start off, when eating breakfast in Spain, you are introduced to different kinds of meats, cheeses, olives, crostini’s, smoked fish, and warm milk to accompany your cereal. This is unlike the typical American breakfast consisting of omelets, pancakes, hash browns, bacon, sausage or cereal. Another difference is the importance of lunch in Spain. People take a couple hours to prepare and enjoy their mid-day meals, usually including a glass of wine or a beer. To them, this is the most important meal of the day, as they spend their time relaxing and catching up with friends and family. Oftentimes, employees take a lunch break of an hour and a half to three hours during the workweek. In contrast, the United States puts a stronger emphasis on having extravagant dinners instead of lunches. Because lunch is the main meal in Spain, Spaniards do not start eating dinner until around ten in the evening.
Not only did the time at which we ate differ, the selection on the menu did as well. Ham is the most prevalent type of meat in Spain and chicken is harder to come by. I loved Manchego cheese, which comes from the La Mancha region of Spain. One of my favorite unhealthy dishes was the Croquettas, consisting of cheese, chicken, and potatoes. Another beloved entre was the seafood paella, containing whole shrimp and prawns. These shellfish needed to be taken apart before eating. Also, in the Spanish region, olives, olive oil, and bread are very common with each meal.
Foods were unique in each country that I had the pleasure of visiting this fall. In Munich, sausages and pretzels are hugely popular. When staying in Paris, crepes could be found on almost every busy street corner. Something interesting that I came across in Rome is the lack of chicken included in pasta dishes.
All these different types of foods can relate back to the meetings or events that we plan or produce in the United States. If you are working with a company that has many foreign employees and attendees, acknowledge their culture and traditions. Make an effort to include some foods that may be more comfortable to them. For example, if there are attendees from Europe, include sliced meats, cheeses, olives, and crostini’s for breakfast. Another way to integrate the culture of the attendees is through the theme of the event, which could be an “Around the World” buffet, by providing dishes and stations from the different countries that the attendees are from. Play along with these ideas. The attendees will greatly appreciate the effort that was made to recognize their cultural backgrounds.
Throughout my career in event planning, I have had many interesting experiences that I never could have predicted. One especially memorable one was working with Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner.
Gardner’s win over Russian Aleksandr Karelin at the Sydney Olympics was nothing short of epic. Karelin was the considered to be the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time and was undefeated and un-scored upon in 13 years of competition. The crowd in Sydney first sensed an upset in the making when Karelin broke his grip on his opponent. The announcers went wild, along with the crowd.
Rulon Gardner’s defeat of Alexander the Great is one of the greatest moments in Olympic history, ranking right up there with the 1980 Miracle on Ice. It was completely unexpected, totally thrilling, and it endeared this baby-faced young man from a Wyoming dairy farm to the nation.
In 2001, I had the opportunity to do some speech writing and coaching with Rulon Gardner, who these days makes his living as a motivational speaker. It was fun getting to know him, and we did a good job helping him find a way to tell his story in a way that highlighted some important key messages, while making it sound like him, and not like it was written by someone else.
One really fun moment we had was when I was planted in the audience and “randomly” selected to wrestle him on stage. That’s not something you ever forget! The other amazing memory I have is a morning I spent coaching him for an evening speech college in Fort Wayne, IN. That day was September 11, 2001. To the college’s credit the speech went on as planned that evening, but stopped when President Bush came on television to speak to the nation. After the President was finished, Rulon resumed his speech. He did a wonderful job and brought a few hundred people some comfort when we really needed each other.
Gardner has had an eventful life in the 12 years since his historic win in Sydney. He suffered hypothermia and frostbite after a snowmobile accident, after which he lost a toe. He also survived a plane crash. In 2011, he staged a remarkable comeback of a different sort as a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” where he lost a substantial amount of weight, down 173 pounds from a height of 474 pounds in just 16 weeks. His life has been anything but dull. I learned a lot from him in the time I spent with him, and it was a terrific experience for me to help him move to a new chapter in his life. And, I saw first-hand the benefit an inspiring speaker can bring to an event.
Will we see you this summer in London, Rulon?
Watch the video Gardner shows before being introduced to an audience.
Recently, Esprit Productions planned and produced the Siemens Leadership Conference, which is their most senior group in North America for two of their four sectors. This conference included the Infrastructure & Cities Sector, as well as the Industry Sector. This situation presented an unusual complication. How do you address a meeting where there would be a shared general session, and then break up the groups and produce a meeting where each group would feel equally important? The answer is to create two general session set ups in separate rooms.
Both rooms had the same set-ups, including a diamond thrust-stage to bring the audience closer to the presentations, AND two large high-definition projection screens. The session started by using both screens to create a vivid panoramic backdrop that extended the width of the stage. This backdrop was used before the meeting started and for introductions.
During the presentations, the two screens were used independently. One side was used to project a close up (image magnification) of the presenter and the other side was used to display the presentation itself. Remember that the point of PowerPoint is not to be the speech but merely to support what the speaker is saying. So, it’s a great feature to be able to see both clearly.
Using two large high-definition screens in conjunction is a great way to keep the audience engaged. First off, it’s just flat out cool. When your meeting attendees start to assemble, they’ll be immediately impressed with how fabulous the screens look with animation loops of their people, products, and services. They aren’t static like conventional sets. The color and beautiful display are engaging and dynamic. Practically speaking, it’s a great use of the technology available for modern meetings. By utilizing two screens, you aren’t as confined. You don’t have to choose between magnifying the speaker or displaying the accompanying deck of slides. The larger than life presence of both will keep your audience engaged, focused, and will make your meeting memorable.